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Bramlet wipes the shameful '05-'06 slate clean.

By Daniel Strickland on October 23, 2006.

Before we get the glorious new NBA season underway – a season in which, ***spoiler alert***, the Spurs will once again reclaim the NBA crown after a failed title defense, I have a couple of things to get off my chest and out of my craw.

The first and more minor issue is the Nazr- and Rasho-bashing that so many Spurs fans engaged in all summer. Are they flawed players who probably aren’t worth what the Spurs would have had to pay to keep them, given the other options the Spurs have? Yes. Are they completely worthless pieces of shit whom we should be glad to be rid of? Hell, no. By all accounts, they are both nice guys who made a real commitment to the Spurs organization and helped us all enjoy a championship. Pardon my bleeding-heart sentimentality, but I will miss seeing them in Spurs uniforms, even if I won’t miss Nazr’s “Larry, Moe, and Curly” hands and Rasho’s one free throw attempt for every thousand minutes of PT. Let’s show these guys a little respect. They’re no Derek Anderson, after all – although in retrospect, hey, we should actually thank that guy for doing us such a huge favor and getting the hell out. So here’s to you, Nazr, Rasho…and Derek!

Live long and prosper, men. Just not against the Spurs.

In particular, because he’s such an easy target for the haters out there, I’d like to point out the good qualities that Rasho demonstrated as a Spur, few of which were ever appreciated by his critics:
1. Although he was not a statistically impressive rebounder, he consistently did a good job of blocking out his own man, and he tapped a lot of rebounds out to teammates.
2. He was a very good position defender and shot blocker, he moved his feet better on defense than he was given credit for, and he was usually a good team defender.
3. He generally stepped up against the better centers in the league, like Yao and Snaq. We have a nice variety of big men this season who will provide different defensive looks and a lot of fouls, but we will probably miss what Rasho did for us against those guys.
4. He set good picks, and in particular he helped TP get a lot of easy layups by screening out help defenders.
5. He was a good passer, even if he didn’t have a lot of opportunities to show it.
6. He was selfless, he was a great teammate, and he worked hard.

Competent execution, GOOD! Any semblance of human emotion, BAD! RAARRGGHH!!!

If those things aren’t enough to win him some respect from Spurs fans…well, what can I say, except to call you all a bunch of Stephen A. Smiths.

Annoying Man has nothing on this guy.

Fortunately, we have another guy on the roster who will be able to give us most of what Rasho gave us, and he’s better in a number of respects: Fabricio “Oh Boy!” Oberto. I don’t know whether he’ll be in the starting lineup, but we’ll see more of him this season, and he’ll show Spurs fans some good shit. I really like this guy – more on that in an upcoming post.

There’s another thing that’s been stuck in my craw since May. Although, like Stephen Colbert, I was born with an unusually narrow craw, I think every Spurs fan should be a little upset at some of the more venomous Pop-bashing that went on after the Spurs’ elimination by the Mavericks. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying I’m like Britney Spears, unable to accept to any criticism of the man in charge. (By the way, I wonder how she feels about that statement these days? Thanks for the great political leadership, Brit.)

Honestly, I think we should just trust the Popovich in every decision that he makes, and we should just support that, you know?

…But let’s look at things objectively and get a few facts straight about Pop’s decision to play a smaller lineup against the Mavericks:
1. With Nazr or Rasho on the floor, the matchup with Dirk would almost certainly have been even more unfavorable than it was, as either one of them or Timmy would have had to guard him. This is an obvious point that’s been made again and again.
2. The Twin Towers defensive scheme was somewhat negated by the Mavericks’ ability to pull our big men away from the basket. It’s difficult to funnel penetration to a shotblocker who has to guard someone on the perimeter.
3. Neither Nazr nor Rasho had been playing consistently well anyway. While Nazr would have helped our rebounding some, his poor defensive rotations would have hurt us. At least the guys Pop put on the floor were competent defenders within the Spurs’ system.
4. Pop’s critics bitch about the poor rebounding of the small lineup, but our rebounding sucked last year even with our big lineup. Does anyone remember the ridiculous hurting the Pistons put on us twice last season on the glass? The bitter memory of vomit in my mouth still lingers. My gorge rises at it. Anyway, with the Mavericks’ jump shooting, effective rebounding wasn’t necessarily a matter of big men getting position inside; it was just as much a matter of having guys with scrappiness, speed, and athleticism on the floor to track down long rebounds.
5. Playing the smaller lineup gave us a number of advantages on the offensive end: a more dangerous fast break, more movement and better passing in the half-court offense, more outside shooting threats, more room for Tony and Manu to drive and make use of their talents in general, and more room for Tim to go to work around the basket – his big scoring numbers in the series weren’t just a coincidence. Nazr and Rasho couldn’t give us enough on the defensive end to offset the limitations their presence would have imposed on the Spurs’ offense.
6. Giving Finley and Barry more PT enabled the Spurs to have more talent and a higher overall basketball IQ on the floor, period.
7. Any comparison with the Heat’s strategy is at least partly fallacious because Miami’s frontcourt was better equipped to match up against the Mavericks (or against most teams, for that matter) than ours was.
8. Pop made the same decision to go small against the Suns the year before, and everyone praised him to the skies for his newfound flexibility and strategic genius. It worked against them beautifully, and it came within a play or two of working against the Mavericks.
9. As many league observers have noted, the changes in NBA rules and officiating give faster, more athletic
teams an advantage that they haven’t had in the past. This is the direction the Spurs have been heading in for years anyway, and they will probably go even more in this direction as Tim gets older and slower and they play him at “center” (alongside a faster, more athletic big man) for longer periods. (I do expect him to be faster this season than we’ve seen him in a few years, however. TD’s still in his prime, and he’s apparently healthier and in better shape now than he has been in a few years.) In other words, Pop’s decision to go with a smaller lineup was part of a more general shift in the Spurs’ philosophy, not just a short-term strategy against the Mavericks.
10. Pop evidently didn’t second-guess his decision after the end of the season, as both Nazr and Rasho are gone. It’s one thing to say that a team should play a big lineup, but the team has to have the right personnel to do it.

In sum, it’s easy to carp and bitch and insist that things would have been different if Pop had employed a more traditional Spurs strategy, but his critics must at least recognize that he had a number of good reasons for doing what he did. Even I can see that, and Pop, as the saying goes, has forgotten far more about basketball than I will ever know.

This will teach you to question…The Decider!

Ahhh…I feel a lot better now that I’ve gotten that out of my system. It’s time to focus on Our Glorious Leader’s new campaign to restore the rule of the Spurs proletariat. I’m off to cleanse my palate once and for all with some nice red wine. Who gives a shit if it’s 9 o’clock on Monday morning? It’s not as though I have a real job anyway.

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  1. Dingo November 17, 2006

    That Britney Spears video was removed from youtube, “due to terms of use violation”!?


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